Independent commercial layer hatchery, Tom Barron, is to start supplying NOVOgen Brown chicks to UK egg producers, having signed an exclusive deal with French genetics company Novogen.

The agreement follows the recent news that the Preston-based distributer has lost its exclusivity arrangement to supply ISA Brown, ISA Warren and Shaver Brown birds, with these lines shifting to Hendrix subsidiary Joice and Hill over the next two years.

“We are totally convinced that the Novogen layers will be a welcome alternative for the UK and Irish layer industry,” said Tom Barron chief executive Neil Leeming (pictured right). “It is very important to us to give our customers a real choice of the best products available around the world.”

Mr Leeming said that his company would continue to service existing customers for ISA Brown, ISA Warren and Shaver Brown, as the company still had shared rights to distribute them until 31 January 2014.

Whether they would wind down production of these Hendrix breeds before then would depend on how the new Novogen products performed in the UK market.

But he was optimistic they would gain customers quickly, given the “considerable genetic potential” on offer. “The NOVOgen Brown offers good persistency at the end of lay. It is a very calm bird with good shell quality,” he told Poultry World.

This view was endorsed by Novogen general manager Mickael le Helloco (pictured left), who said Novogen layers had performed well under different circumstances, including barn and free-range systems, since their introduction in 2008.

The breed is now available in over 30 countries, and will soon be available in the UK, with breeder flocks already established on farms near Tom Barron’s Preston hatchery.

* Tom Barron has been supplying layer chicks for more than 80 years, and also provides growing pullets of a range of breeds and contract rearing for other suppliers.

Novogen is a French company, part-owned by Groupe Grimaud, supplying grand parent and parent stock to independent players in the egg industry. It is also a sister company to broiler genetics business Hubbard.